Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, Iowa on November 26, 2017
Let us begin this morning by reciting our November memory verse together. Romans 3:10-12, “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
As always, we have a lot of ground to cover. So let us jump right into our verses for today. Please stand for the reading of God’s Word.
The Greatest Paragraph in the Bible
As I stated last week, our text today, Romans 3:21-26 is perhaps the greatest paragraph in the entire Bible. Martin Luther said that this passage was “the chief point, and the very central place of the Epistle, and of the whole Bible.” Pastor Keith Krell, writing for Bible.org referred to this passage as the guts of the gospel. John piper calls this the “best passage ever.”
Why is this? Because this passage testifies to the apex of God’s glory and the only source of our joy. Let me say that again, Romans 3:21-16 is the apex of God’s glory and the only source of our joy. And that is not an overstatement for the purpose of capturing attention. It is 100% true.
In Luke 10, Jesus sends out seventy two disciples to expand the Kingdom of God. Then in verse 17 it says, “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.20Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
The seventy two were rejoicing because they had authority. Their joy was coming from having people under them. Jesus had to rebuke them, “Do not rejoice in this.” This was bad. This was wrong. Rejoicing because of how God chooses to use you is a misplaced joy. It is idol worship. Jesus resets their fallen minds and says, your joy comes, not from how you serve, but that you are saved. Joy flows from Calvary. Period! So let us take a look at what happened at Calvary according to God.
All Have Sinned and Fall Short of God’s Glory
First, let us remind ourselves that the Apostle Paul from Romans 1:18-3:20 has been giving us the bad news of the human condition. Our memory verse is a great summation of this teaching, that there is no one righteous, that there is no one good. This understanding of the fallen human state, and God’s wrath that is directed towards all humanity because of our sin is fundamentally crucial. And because it is fundamentally crucial, the Apostle Paul is a broken record, saying it over and over and over again. In today’s text he says it once again in a different way. Verse 23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
What does this mean? The word sinned in Greek is hamartanō (hä-mär-tä'-nō) which means to miss the mark. Just think of shooting an arrow at a target. To sin is to not hit the bull’s eye. So what is the bulls eye? It is the glory of God.
This is why God created man, to glorify Him. God says in Isaiah 43:7, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” We are created for one preeminent purpose, to glorify God. However, as verse 23 says, we fall short. The arrow of our lives that we shoot at the target of glorifying God falls short. It doesn’t get there. We don’t have the capacity, the strength, the ability to hit the bullseye of God’s glory.
As we say it say in Romans 1:22-23 – “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” So instead of glorifying God, we glorify creation, mostly we glorify ourselves. We miss the mark, by exchanging the bulls eye of God’s glory, for the bulls eye of our own glory.
And as Paul had said repeatedly, this is a universal problem. All have sinned. Not some of have sinned, but all. This is an epidemic that began with Adam and flows to all men. All humanity is guilty before God.
However, in verse 24 and 25 everything changes. In fact, verse 24 seems to blow up everything that Paul was just talking about? Verse 24 and 25 says, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. ” And this morning we are going to look at those four components that turn the world upside down 1) Justified, 2) By His Grace as a Gift, 3) Through the redemption that is in Christ, 4) to be received by faith.
Let us being by understanding what it means to be justified. The Greek word for justified is dikaioō(dē-kī-o'-ō). This is the first time this word is used in the book of Romans. This word is also fundemental in understanding the truth of the gospel. Dikaioo, or justified, means to “declare righteous.” This topic of righteousness makes sense because Paul has been talking a lot about righteousness in the first three chapters, specifically our unrighteousness and the righteousness of God in Christ.
So what does Paul mean when he says we are declared righteous? To declare something is to make known an official position. One of our primary documents in the United States is the Declaration of Independence. Our founding fathers declared their formal position in relation to the King of England as it relates to the freedom of the States.
So in verse 24, who is doing the declaring? Who has the authority to take a sinner and declare him to be righteous? It is God. Only God is the one who can make such a declaration. As we have seen Romans 1-3, God is the judge of all humanity. We are all accountable to Him. We are under Him and we are under His Word. And as it relates to our sinfulness, we stand in the Courtroom of God, and it is God and God alone who can declare someone to be righteous.
And this is how we should understand this word, justified, as a judicial declaration by God himself. He is declaring us, not guilty. This is a massive reality. God is stating that a sinner is justified. Past tense. God is making a claim on sinners before Judgment Day. He is making a declaration about your innocence in regards to a future date. Dougals Moo in his commentary on Romans states, “the act of justification is therefore properly “eschatological” as the ultimate verdict regarding a person’s standing with God is brought back into our present reality.” God locks himself in.
How is this possible? How can wretched sinners be declared righteous? How can we be justified right now, knowing that we will continue to fall short in our daily lives? The answer is God's Grace as a Gift.
By Grace as Gift
Verse 24 says, “and are justified by his grace as a gift.” This is where words matter so much. The key word is the word “by”. The Word “by” points us to the foundation, the rock, the basis of our being not guilty before God. Verse 24 tells us that our justification is entirely dependently upon His grace.
To begin, who is “his”? It is not us. It is not the Church. It is God and God alone. Our justification is based upon God's Grace. God's declaration is dependent on God's grace.
Next, lets us look at the word Grace. The word grace in Greek is charis. This word is very interesting. Often times it is translated to favor or kindness. The root word for charis is chario, which is where we get the word cheerful. Chario is many times translated to the word joy. So this idea of charis is a kindness towards us that produces a joy.
And this word, charis, grace becomes central to Pauline theology as he goes from town to town sharing the gospel and writing 13 letters that become part of our Bible. It is a gospel built upon grace. We will see Paul unpack this word over and over and over and over again throughout the book of Romans as well as all of his writings. Justification is built upon the grace of God.
So how do we received this grace from God? First it is something that can only be received. Verse 24 says that it is a gift. The Greek word of gift is dorea, which does not only mean a gift, but means a free gift, one that is not received by merit or entitlement. Which is an important point that Paul makes as it relates to the Jews, this grace of God is not one they receive because they are entitled to it because they are biologically related to Abraham. Nor is it one that they received because they kept the law of Moses, i.e. merit. This gift of God's grace is one that God gives based solely upon God's loving kindness.
There is absolutely nothing that can be done to ensure reception of this grace of God. God is sovereign in the dispensation of His grace. If we claimed that we could do something to force God's hand to give us this grace, it would not longer be a free gift, it would be a wage instead. Not to mention, God would not longer be sovereign, for he would be a submissive to man. We could in a way, force ourselves into his family, and he would have nothing to say about it.
This idea of a free gift, is one that, strangely enough is in complete contrast to the folklore of Santa Clause that will be so prevalent over the next month. With Santa Clause, gifts are dependent on whether you are naughty or nice, not so with God. As we saw over the last two months, everyone on the planet is naughty, yet God still gives gifts. And and His gift is 100% free, in fact, if you tree to purchase the gift of God's grace through good works, you will never receive it, and will remain under God's wrath.
And this is why, I stand in direct opposition to the Catholic Church. This doctrine of free grace, as is found explicitly in our text today, is rejected by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church believes that this free gift of God's grace is one that you earn. First you earn it by being baptized. Then you earn it by being a Catholic. Then you earn it by taking communion. Then you earn it by not committing too many sins. Then you earn it by making confessions and saying “Hail Mary full of grace.” Which is lie, she is not full of grace. Christ is the only one full of grace. Then you earn it by not committing a mortal sin, and so on and so forth. Does that sound like the free gift of God's grace that Paul is describing? No, it sounds like prison. In fact, Paul calls that type of gospel a false gospel. And he says if anyone preaches that kind of Gospel, they are anethema, which means devoted to destruction, or damned to Hell. Why such strong language? Because this unbiblical teaching makes a person think they are saved, when in fact they are still bound to Hell with a false hope.
And to be fair, it is not only the Catholic Church, it is all religions, other than the one true religion. All false religions focus on doing something, or being something, to be justified before God, but God tells us bluntly, there is nothing we can do, but receive this beautiful gift of God's grace. Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
This free grace, may not cost us anything, but it did cost God something. Look at verse 24 again, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” The grace did not come out of nowhere it came out of the person of Jesus Christ. In John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is the charis of God, the grace of God, the favor of God, the kindness of God that produces in us joy.
It is through Christ that our names are written in the book of life that Jesus spoke of in Luke 10. In fact, in the book or Revelation the full title of that book is revealed, it is not just the book of life, it is “book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”
And as we look back to Romans 3 we see the same thing in verse 25, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood.” This was, and is, the free gift of God, the death of His only begotten Son. And it is only through Christ that we have any hope to be justified before God.
Take a moment and let this sink in. We are all sinners. God has handed us over to our own passions and lust, and we are destroying ourselves, our families, our communities, and the world through our sin. Not only that, we will some day die, for the wages of sin is death, and apart from a miracle, we will be sent to Hell to whereby we will be eternally tormented because of our rebellion against a Holy God.
But God, because of who he is, sends his Son as a free gift to us, to be the righteousness that we lack, and then kills him upon a cross so that we can be redeemed. And this act of God is based solely upon God's sovereign grace. He doesn't have to do any of this, yet it is His will. Why? Because our God is an awesome God! And in this act of God's display of grace at Calvary we see the immeasurable greatness of his glory.
And all of this can be yours through faith. Verse 25, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” The way in which we receive this free gift of the grace of Jesus Christ is through faith. What does faith mean? The Greek word for faith is pistis. Pistis means to believe, to trust. I always like the definition that God gives in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
To have faith in the blood of Jesus is more than just intellectual knowledge. Faith in Christ is a matter of the heart. It is a deep soulful acceptance and trust in Christ and Christ alone to save you from God's wrath. If your faith is in God, but not in Jesus, then you know enough to damn yourself to Hell. James says in James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
To believe in Christ means to place all of you5 trust in Him and him alone to justify you before His Father. John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” And if that does not produce joy in you, than nothing will.